In a special Super Bowl interview series, Ad Age talks to the directors behind some of the game's winning spots. First up, Noam Murro, the man behind Taco Bell's "Viva Young." Check in tomorrow for a discussion with Tom Kuntz, the director of VW's controversial "Get Happy" ad.
The co-founder of Biscuit Filmworks, Noam Murro, has done movies like "Smart People" and the coming "300: Rise of an Empire" and directed Super Bowl commercials for big carmakers like Kia, Audi, and Hyundai. This year, Mr. Murro was behind one of this year's favorite Big Game spots so far, for Taco Bell, called "Viva Young."
Created out of Deutsch, Los Angeles, the ad depicts a sprightly senior posse's escape from the old-folks home. A fabulous escapade ensues, all set to a hilarious Spanish cover of Fun's "We Are Young." Such a scenario has potential to play out like one hot cheesy mess, so we asked Mr. Murro about what it took to maintain the spot's cool. He also discussed his thoughts on the kind of mind-set one needs when directing for gameday.
Creativity: The talent and their performances are what make the humor in this spot. What was the casting like? What was important to keep in mind?
Mr. Murro: Part of it was about, how do you take this idea and make it modern and relevant and fresh? We intentionally didn't go the route of the cute, falling down old men, the cliché over-the-top cutesy old cast. Rather we went with people who would look in the mirror and go, "I haven't changed inside. My face doesn't look so good; my hair might not be as attractive anymore." The trick was to get a cast that felt that way inside. It wasn't a technical issue; it was an emotional issue. How do you get people who still feel like they want to do those things. Also, it's like any other casting process. You see 6 million shitty ones, a few good ones, and then another 6 million shitty ones, then another good one. You look for them like truffles.
Creativity: What was it like on set? What sort of direction did you give to them to get that fun-loving vibe?
Mr. Murro: The main aspect of directing it was "no concessions." I didn't treat them differently than I would 20-year-olds. That's part of the concept. Kissing was kissing on the mouth, dancing was dancing, doing the robot was doing the robot like a 20-year-old would do.
Creativity: Comedy is a tough thing to do right. Outside of the talent, what were the other factors that went in to making the ad funny?
Mr. Murro: There was no humor injected here. There was authenticity injected, and hopefully the one thing that changes here is the chromosome of age. If you substitute this with kids, you'd just have a cool piece. The humor comes from the fact that you have not created humor, you've changed what is normally seen with young people, with old people, taking the broad and the schtick away. That's what makes it good humor, in my opinion. It's not belabored.
Creativity: Knowing that this was for the Super Bowl, did that change your approach to directing the work?
Mr. Murro: I'm not a believer in that. I'm a true believer in doing what's right for the commercial. To think of your audience in that way -- in terms of a large common denominator -- that's a mistake people make. "Oh this is going to be seen by half a million people so we have to make it broad or dumb." I just don't believe in that. You put in front of people entertainment that is well done. And if you start treating them like they're not smart, you're in a danger of insulting them at the end of the day.
Creativity: What are your thoughts on Super Bowl ad rankings?
Mr. Murro: My thoughts are, I want to be No. 1. It would be nice to get that. I hope I make something populist enough that people are going to want to watch and enjoy. But you have to take that out of the equation when you create it. You've got to approach it as a creator, not with the intention of being No. 1. There's no formula for it. Otherwise, there would be no fun in our game.
Creativity: A lot of critics say that such rankings lead to the plethora of bad ideas we often see during the game.
Mr. Murro: The Super Bowl is a showcase for a lot of mediocre advertising. And a showcase for what could be great advertising. The question is: What do you want to do? There is a notion that you have to dumb it down. Don't dumb it down. Entertain. Two very, very different things.